BREAKING: Victory! Federal Court Orders FEC to Take Action on NRA Complaint

Following the Federal Election Commission’s failure to act on allegations that the NRA unlawfully coordinated with federal candidates, a federal court has ordered the agency to take action within 30 days. 

Washington, D.C. Today, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order, instructing the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to take action within 30 days on long-pending administrative complaints against the National Rifle Association (NRA) for using shell corporations to coordinate campaign spending with federal candidates. The order follows  a 2019 lawsuit filed by Campaign Legal Center Action (CLC Action) on behalf of Giffords.

Campaign finance law allows outside groups like the NRA to make unlimited expenditures supporting candidates — but only if that spending is completely independent of those candidates’ campaigns. During the 2014, 2016 and 2018 campaign cycles, the NRA showed flagrant disregard for these rules by using mutual vendors to coordinate expenditures with seven federal candidates, including former President Donald Trump. Through this scheme, the NRA was able to secretly contribute millions of dollars to candidates, in violation of the contribution limits, and without disclosing its support.

Giffords filed four complaints with the FEC to address the NRA’s violations. The FEC took no action. In April of 2019, CLC Action filed suit on behalf of Giffords against the FEC in federal court, on the grounds that the FEC had unlawfully delayed in acting on the administrative complaint.

“The failure of the FEC to enforce our campaign finance laws has resulted in an explosion of shady campaign spending. In the two years since we filed this lawsuit, our nation experienced the most expensive election in our history, with ‘dark money’ spending topping $1 billion,” said Trevor Potter, president of CLC and Republican former Chairman of the FEC. “The FEC had the chance to do the right thing by taking action against the NRA for this blatant spending coordination, but failed to do so. We applaud the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for stepping in and compelling them to take action.”

“Over the last several years and across election cycles, the NRA has been brazenly flouting campaign finance law by illegally funneling money to candidates while claiming to remain independent,” said David Pucino, Senior Staff Attorney at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “The NRA has used these tactics not just to obscure their contributions, but to violate spending caps, undermining the integrity of our elections and the rule of law. It is clear that the NRA will continue to violate the law until someone stops them. Today's decision ordering the FEC to take action is a resounding win to keep dark money out of our politics.”

To reduce political corruption, we need a stronger FEC that can enforce campaign finance laws and hold political candidates, groups and donors accountable. The FEC had a chance to do its job, but was asleep at the switch. A federal court has now interceded, giving the agency one more chance to prove that it is capable of being the effective watchdog this country needs. 

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